It's that time of year again when some New Year's Resolutions are going strong, others have received a few revisions, and some have fallen by the wayside. So what's working for you? What are you struggling with?
Since most resolutions are goals you hope to achieve in the coming year, let's briefly refresh the basics of goal setting. Remember the S.M.A.R.T. acronym? High quality goals should have these attributes_
• Specific • Measurable • Attainable • Relevant • Timely
You can get more creative with the acronym - adding memorable, meaningful or motivating under "M," for example, or perhaps realistic under "R." The point is to set yourself up for success by really thinking through what it is that you want to achieve, and how exactly you plan to achieve it.
We RDs hear many New Year's Resolutions related to diet and exercise. Let me add some practical tips to the most common resolutions I hear from clients. Use these tips to help you stick to your resolution and find yourself more successful overall.
- Eat Healthier. A great aspiration, but by no means a behavior change goal so it's time to make a plan. How do you plan to eat healthier? What specific foods or food groups would you like to minimize or increase in your diet? How will you go about making your change?
- Exercise More. Again, a great thing to aim for, but how will you do it? When it comes to exercise I often encourage people to either set a number of days per week, or a number of minutes spent exercising per week goal. Some people like aiming for 5 days per week, while others have an easier time aiming for 150 minutes of total exercise. Whatever works for you is what you should do. If you choose days of the week, what days of the week will you exercise? If a time goal is better suited for you, how will you break it up? What is the minimum/maximum amount of time you will spend exercising? Do you have a buddy to help you achieve this goal? Do you have a gym membership? Do you want one? If not, where will you exercise? What equipment will you need to purchase?
- Eliminate X, Y, Z. Whether its red meat or beer, soda or fried food, make this resolution SMARTer by establishing objectives. Is it unrealistic to eliminate these things altogether or is this a new golden rule for you? How hard will it be for you to eliminate this from your diet? Should you establish a buddy system, or rules to help you remember? Try making a list of what's motivating you. Why do you want to make this change? What positive things can come from making this change? What negative things can come from not making this change?
- Eat Breakfast Daily. There is overwhelming evidence that we should eat breakfast daily. The most important thing to remember about breakfast is that it doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone. At the most basic level it is the meal that breaks our overnight fast. Therefore, it doesn't have to be first thing in the morning. It can be up to 2 hours after you wake up and should be before your start doing something taxing such as starting work or exercising. Breakfast can be traditional breakfast foods- anything from cereal to eggs, but it can also be "lunch" or "dinner" foods. Breakfast can be a small portion, or it can be your largest meal of the day. It can be eaten sitting down, or on-the-go.
Goal setting and behavior change in particular takes hard work and perseverance. You have to consistently check in on your progress- journal, blog, chart, or even chat your progress to keep track of where you've been and where you're going. Lifelong behavior change begins one day at a time. Some days will be better or worse days than others, but don't be so hard on yourself. It's okay to have bad days. Consistent effort- and being honest with yourself- are key. People often tell me "I was doing well, but then I ate out for breakfast and my whole day was shot...so I ate 'bad' that day." Avoid the slippery slope. One meal, one day, even one week aren't enough to "ruin" your diet plan. What matters most is that most days you're consistently sticking to the plan you agreed to.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.